Tennis: Zidansek reaches French Open semis in milestone for Slovenia

Tamara Zidansek had never gone beyond the second round of a major before this year's Roland Garros.
Tamara Zidansek had never gone beyond the second round of a major before this year's Roland Garros.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - World no. 85 Tamara Zidansek became the first Slovenian woman to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam on Tuesday (June 8) when she beat Spain's Paula Badosa at the French Open.

Zidansek advanced 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 and will play Kazakh 21st seed Elena Rybakina or 31st-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia for a place in Saturday's final.

"I'm really, really happy to be in the semi-finals," said Zidansek, who had never gone beyond the second round of a major before this year's Roland Garros.

Zidansek recovered from 3-0 and a double break down in the first set and then saved three break points at 6-6 in the decider before taking her second match point against the in-form Badosa, the 33rd seed who has won the most clay court matches (17) on the WTA tour this season.

"I knew before the match it was going to be a tough battle," added Zidansek, 23.

"In the third set I managed to get into my groove and I started feeling better and better, and I was fighting really well."

She will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova next after the Russian reached her first Grand Slam semi-final at the 52nd attempt on Tuesday with a three-set win over doubles partner Elena Rybakina.

Pavlyuchenkova, the world number 32, won 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, 9-7. 

“There are so many emotions to reach a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time,” said 29-year-old Pavlyunchenkova who had fallen at the quarter-final stage at the majors on six previous occasions since her 2007 debut.

“It’s tough to play against your friend.” She added: “I always had the tennis. Mentally I’m probably more solid now. Just trying to play smarter tennis. I’m working harder.”

Rybakina, who had knocked out Serena Williams in the previous round, raced into a 4-1 lead in the opener against a player who had also made the quarter-finals in Paris in 2011.

Pavlyuchenkova broke back in the seventh game before the Russian-born Kazakh raced confidently through the tiebreak.

The Russian levelled the tie courtesy of breaks in the sixth and eighth games of the second set.

In a tense decider, there were four breaks in the first six games before Rybakina cracked in the 16th game, going down tamely on her sixth double fault.